Sexual crimes against women: Ordinance issued to toughen laws

Delhi anti-rape protest

A SPECIAL meeting of the cabinet Friday approved the Centre's decision to promulgate an ordinance to implement recommendations of the J S Verma panel to fight sexual crimes against women.

The decision to issue an ordinance was taken despite reservations at the highest level of the government about the propriety of such a move so close to the Budget session of Parliament which begins February 21.

There was also a lack of clarity within the government over the fate of the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2012, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 4, 2012 by Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and is now pending with the standing committee.

Many clauses of the ordinance are similar to the Bill and one view in the government is that issuing an ordinance on a matter pending in Parliament could be a breach of the legislature.

The cabinet meeting was preceded by a meeting of the Congress core group where the issue was discussed.

The three-member J S Verma panel, set up after the gangrape of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi on December 16, had submitted a 630-page report on January 23, recommending several new clauses in existing laws to check sexual crimes against women.

According to sources, the ordinance provides for a new crime of gangrape, which will be punishable with a minimum prison term of 20 years. Anyone found guilty of intentionally causing damage to the body of a person, or burning or maiming a person by throwing acid will be jailed for a minimum of 10 years that may extend to life imprisonment and a fine of Rs 10 lakh.

A man who rapes his estranged wife during separation can be jailed for seven years while those convicted for the new crimes of stalking, voyeurism and intentional touching of a girl or woman with sexual intent will get a minimum jail term of one year.

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